Battlestar Galactica – Surprise, it doesn’t suck

OK, it’s just the first installment, but color me very pleasantly surprised by the Sci-Fi channel‘s mini-series remake of Battlestar Galactica. I highly recommend it.

This show was near and dear to me in the Great Cultural and In Particular Science Fiction Drought of the Late Seventies. Jimmy Carter was flailing about in the White House, the Soviets were prepping to and then invading Afghanistan, Iran was forbidding dancing to the Beatles’ “Revolution” but about to take the title to heart, Al Gore was beginning to think about getting into politics and wondering how right-wing a wife he could get away with, ELP released “Love Beach,” and people thought Burt Reynolds was a sex symbol.

Farrah Fawcett notwithstanding, it was a very dark time. Oh, and the heavy metal was decent.

So, along with some serious hype, comes the special effects wizards behind the original (and at that point only) Star Wars movie with the determination to bring those effects to TV to tell a good story.

The thing is, especially in the first season, he succeeded. The look was far beyond anything seen on TV previously, and the story touched deeply into different religious and cultural roots, and there was a really cool introduction by Patrick McNee and kickass theme music. Oh, and I’m sorry, but compared to the gelled bedhead look, the hair ruled. This is an incontravertable fact. So just deal with the reality, OK?

It was Wagon Train to the Stars, basically. And had hot chicks in skin-tight suits.

For some reason, this appealed to a 9 to 11-year-old (my ages during the series’ original run).

So now the Sci-Fi channel has brought it lumbering back to life, to basically do it as it was originally intended–a miniseries. They retell the story, but update it.

In the first series, the Cylons were created by an organic race called the Cylons, and the Cylons (the chrome toaster guys with the cool lights) wiped out their masters and began to establish a machine-dominated order. This time, they are created by the humans, rebelled, and were fought to a standstill, and agreed to go off. Now they’re back, and at this point, the two stories are more similar. They pull a devastating sneak attack, aided once again by a snivelling vainglorious Baltar, and the Galactica is left alone to guide a “rag-tag, fugitive fleet.”

So far, with the excellent choice of Edward James Olmos in the role first played by Lorne Green, it looks good. With the news that Cylons were now human-looking and that Starbuck and Boomer were now women, I was highly skeptical. Nonetheless, I’m glad I gave it a chance and plan to be watching the rest of the series. You should, too, if you like good space opera.

It isn’t overly gory, at least in the first episode, but it does give you a sense of the tragedy that a planet has been nuked. Fortunately we’ve had The Day After and other movies to prepare us with ready-made imagery. They also play on the John F. Kennedy assassination, with an oath-taking scene aboard a passenger ship. They obviously don’t have a huge budget but manage to use computer-generated special effects to cover it up nicely–it doesn’t feel cheap.

They also do a good job of setting up the characters–a bit differently than the previous series, in that Apollo (now a call sign and not a name, names are now much more standard first-and-last) is angry at his father for what he perceives as unfair pressure on his brother to fly fighters, which gets the brother killed. Colonel Tigh has a larger and more complex role, though I’m kind of sorry they made it a white guy. Sure, we have one minority leading the thing, but in several thousand years do we really still need a white guy in the senior staff to make it “real”?

Too early to see where they’re going with all of it, but it’s starting well. Better, in fact, than Babylon 5 did. Let’s hope they keep improving as Babylon 5 did.

See? I told you this would have stuff about what I watched on TV last night…you were warned.

2 thoughts on “Battlestar Galactica – Surprise, it doesn’t suck

  1. One other bit that I just realized was that most of the surviving refugees are effectively on airliners that were in mid-flight during the attack, and have just had to stop mid-trip, suddenly no longer able to get to their final destination.

    I don’t know if this is an intentional parallel to the people stranded when the air transportation system was grounded on September 11th, and I didn’t spot it immediately, but I do think that heightened the impact of the spaceliner sub-plot.


  2. Huh, I was really, really, REALLY sure this was going to suck. So sure, in fact, that I didn’t even bother to set the Tivo for it… I guess I shouldn’t have been so sure, given that I actually kinda dug their remake of “Dune”.

    Oh well, if SciFi holds true to form I’m sure they’ll re-run it a few hundred thousand times, so I can catch it then 🙂


Comments are closed.